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Season of Mists and Mellow Fruitfulness…SOCAL STYLE.

4 Oct

Keats’  poem “Ode to Autumn” has always been a favorite: “Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness/Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun/Conspiring with him how to load and bless/With fruit the vines round the thatch eves run.” Autumn brings a particular kind of beauty–full, and rich like these succulents dripping with life.

Season of mist Bergamot plants dripping!

Fruition. A quality that anticipates the next stage. I don’t need to spell that one out; you know what I’m talking about.

Day of the Dead Noah and me

In September and October one is aware of temporality. A good time for nostalgia. For me, there is a particular poignancy to autumn: this is the season that my mother was born (late September) and died (late October).  Her middle name was Autumn (she always found that a little silly).

Thinking about seasons in Los Angeles is different than it was in Ithaca, New York, where almost every fall day, the leaves  were a little brighter..and then a little less, and then trees became bare.  The air would  heave some last hot blasts, intermittently blowing cooler and cooler until it stung your face. Back in Ithaca,  I tried to postpone closing the pool until October first.   Noah and I would stoke up the wood-burning sauna–which took an hour and a half–so that we could jump into the icy water and scream for 3 minutes. Our golden retriever Felix would swim for another ten, doing serious laps up and back, mostly silent except for a few official barks commemorating Season’s End.

It’s hard to know what to think about autumn in L.A., where Labor Day looks like this:

season of mist lady with umbrella

season of mist and mellow bikes at hotel

season of mist father and son

season of mist ladies in water

Santa Monica Labor Day Life. Not exactly the end of summer. But plenty mellow (and a little mist.)

During another September weekend, I hiked  Beverly Hills’ Franklin Canyon and came across this bucolic spot:

season of mist and mellow lake with ducks Ithaca

A lake! With ducks! Pine trees! Could have been late summer in Ithaca, right?!

Well, except for this guy:

season of mists Palm tree in Ithaca

Ray, let’s call him, would not cut it in Ithaca.

There’s not much that reminds me of upstate New York or autumn here, and yet I do feel keenly aware of the time of year: A few weeks ago, many friends celebrated Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, which happened to fall on the same day this year as Eid– which most of my Saudi students celebrated. (I got dates and chocolate the day after the fast!) And there was that incredible lunar eclipse. Soon, I will turn off the AC at night; I might dig out a jacket from the back of my closet. And Halloween, my favorite Holiday, is coming! The snakes unleashed in the aisle of my local CVS indicate that:

season of mist snakes in CVS. jpg

On Friday, walking to the parking lot after work, I had a classic L.A. moment: I saw something surprising and weird, and I was delighted and a bit horrified:

season of mist heads in parking lot

No one was around. Just those dummy heads and me. End of a season WRIT LARGE, I decided, and descended into the 4 O’clock underground heat of the Westwood parking garage. Had a hard time getting those heads out of…my head.

The second stanza of  “Ode to Autumn” begins: “And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep/Steady thy laden head across a brook/…Thou watches the last oozings hour by hour.” A gleaner: a gatherer, someone who records. Yes, that’s autumn: recalling spring and summer in the face of winter. Collecting  memories of birth and growth. Appreciating every bit of ripe fullness oozing in the cooling air.

tutoring blog purple hill

Autumn SOCAL STYLE is a funny thing; it’s so subtle that it almost doesn’t exist. Kind of invisible. But, Dear Reader, I’m pretty sure I’ll feel it when Noah and Amanda and I go to DisneyLand for Halloween!? Nothing like Disney to tell you what the what is.

And I felt it this weekend–visiting Peggy in Claremont. Peggy and I knew each other decades ago, when we lived across the street from one another in Urbana, Illinois. On Sunday we woke up to cool air and rain.  Belatedly, we covered up her patio furniture. And then the next-door cat showed up. Undaunted by the wet,  the cat did not find the brown tarp to her liking.

season of mists kitty

This cat visits Peggy several times a week, asking for a head scratch and quick belly rub. I look forward to her visits when they coincide with mine. She makes me think of my mother, who was always visited by neighborhood cats from blocks away…

After a lovely cool and rainy day, I drove back to Beverly Hills, where there was a sky that Keats might have loved.

sunset urban in my alley

“Thou watches the last oozings hour by hour/While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,/And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.” So ends “Ode to Autumn.” There were, in fact,  some birds making end-of-day twitters, though you can’t see them in the photo.

So much remains invisible, nevertheless present. Twittering, oozing, watching. Gleaning.

Wishing you a fruitful and observant season, Dear Reader. Tell me “something autumn” that  you see, smell, taste, or hear this week?

Remembering My Mother: “Poems And Photographs Not Needed.”

11 May

Some people will remember my mother as a young beautiful woman with a jaw line suggesting determination and more than a little resistance to rules. They might remember her Sexy Eyes Downcast–a refusal to look at the camera. Introspection.
mom so young

Many will remember her as a passionate reader and teacher. (All the while looking like Lena Horne.)
mom reading to me

I am afraid that not many will remember Audrey Dohmeyer Wasson Curley as a poet. That’s because she almost never talked about writing, publishing, her craft. I thought of her craft as the cigarette smoke after dinner, and the tap tap tap I heard on the typewriter late at night. If I couldn’t sleep (often) I’d come down and she’d make me a tuna sandwich and ask what was worrying me. Her being at the dining room table typing, crumpled paper at her feet, the scratchings on pages she’d placed on the kitchen counter–these things were just part of our life together. Mom and Kir on Pennsylvania Ave.

mom poem

Fifteen years ago she died unexpectedly. I was on a plane coming to see her because she’d not been feeling well, but Mom was hardly seriously ill–as far as we knew. She’d collapsed in her kitchen and then, barely conscious, called an ambulance. Emergency room for one night and then they let her out; she called a cab to get home. Something wrong with her heart. By then I was on my way. She died at home-hours before I got there.

When I decided to change my life a year and a half ago, one of the few things I threw into the Prius was a folder of Audrey’s poems that I’d found while packing up. I didn’t really know what the folder was. I mean, I’d read some of her poems, and knew she’d published a little bit… But last week I looked more closely. I never knew she had a poem published in Art Journal.

Mom's published poem
And the folder was jam-packed full of poems, one onion skin sheet after another. One about the marriage to my dad, and the cat “Fatty” that survived that relationship:
“Lean, tough and nasty. How we respected her violence,/learned ornithology and swooped in/to save her victims/And by the time we killed/the marriage she was slow, striking/out from a secret place under the table/ to rake any thighs available…”

Poems about her romantic life after my dad–one about being on a picnic with a new lover (Dan,who would become my stepfather):
“As I scuttle for shelter/from irony in the scrubby grove,/history that wets the world/and fear of love/he shows me a place/stripped dry enough for hunger,/ wonder sharp as a new small stone.”
Mom and Dan
Poems about art, teaching, birdwatching. One of her later poems is about the grandson with whom she fell in love, entitled, “Noah Daniel, First Birthday”:
“Our dearest men/are ageless. Look at you, Noah….Your pose prefigures,/(time runs both its ways)/Dan’s restive stance/face reflective in the mirror…”
Noah was six when she died. The last line of this poem is:
“I see you, Noah,/not so many birthdays hence/hand on jutted teenaged hip/checking out the water/looking to step in.”

Noah looks a lot like Audrey.
Noah older headshot better version

I knew Audrey was an amazing mother, teacher, single woman (in 1969? Not Easy), and someone who wrote poetry. I just didn’t realize that she was a serious artist. I’m pretty sure that she didn’t either. That wasn’t her style.

So, as they say: IN CONCLUSION. My mom ended a poem called “Aesthetics” with this:

“The Earth itself remembers./Poems and photographs/will not be needed as monuments/to moments we have been.”
Poems and photos not needed? I am so grateful for both her photos and poems.

I haven’t quoted lines from the poems that my mom wrote about me. I can hear her: “Oh God no, Kir! For a mother’s day piece? Hideously tacky.” Audrey still guides me. Away from self-indulgence.

But please allow me to quote a few lines from one of the many poems I’ve written about her:

(I had a dream while selling my Ithaca house; Audrey appeared, wanted to take a walk. She was annoyed that I was aging.)

“My tall mother, dead and impatient in turtleneck
and short skirt, hiking the marsh while I try to sell
an old house. She’s speaking of melting, the ground soft:
‘Almost everything takes forever, you know.’ Then
she spots a green shoot, a white bud: ‘A snowdrop. Look.'”

As I know her, Audrey is on the look out. She’s got her eye on art, birds, the word, and love.
She’s “checking out the water/looking to step in.”

mom in seattle
Here: a month before she died.
Happy Mother’s Day, Dear Reader. In some way or other-Honor your mom!